A man runs his van through a crowd in Toronto Ontario Canada and pulls out something that looks like a gun yet the Canadian Police did not shoot. Throting the Death By Cop attempt. Does this show a strong contrast from Canadian Police to American?

Video from the scene shows a black-clad man quickly and repeatedly drawing and aiming an object at a police officer, shouting at the officer to kill him. The officer ignores the demand and continues to advance slowly with his firearm drawn.

Not a single shot was fired during the dramatic exchange and the officer is being lauded for his cool-headed arrest.

In the video, the officer shouts: “Get down!”

“Kill me!” the man replies

“No, get down!”

The suspect tells the officer he has a gun in his pocket, to which the officer replies that he doesn’t care. The officer orders him again to get down, warning he will be shot if he doesn’t. The man tells the officer to shoot him in the head.

The officer hastens his pace and approaches the suspect, who then drops what he was holding and raises both hands. The officer gets the suspect on to his stomach and puts handcuffs on him.

Being a Commonwealth country, Canada has adopted a community-based policing strategy that has more in common with its British and Australian counterparts than with American policing tactics, especially when it comes to large cities.

The reasons for these differences between the Canadian approach and the American are not as simple as you might imagine, but they have clear implications for the ability of police organizations from both countries to learn from one another.

Defining the Role of the Police in a Community

One of the small-yet-important details that often goes overlooked when comparing Canadian and American police organizations is what those organizations are actually called in day-to-day speech. Americans are used to hearing about a “police force” being called out to deal with an emergency, catch a robber or track a suspect. Canadians, however, are protected by a “police service.” This tiny difference, of a single word, is enough to show how the psychology of the entire institution operates from the ground up.

Canadians often point to a single major difference between our two cultures as a starting point: Guns are far more easily available in the United States than in Canada. This environment leads to a tense situation for any police officer, no matter how polite he or she may wish to appear.

The use of lethal force in the U.S. far outstrips Canada. Adjusting for population differences, the police in the U.S. use lethal force about six times as often as Canadian officers. In raw numbers, between 1990 and 2014 there were 376 fatal police shootings in Canada. In 2015 alone in the U.S. there were at least 987. However, the U.S. number is likely higher because of the number of police agencies (18,000) and the fact there is no federal national tracking of police shootings in the U.S. Of course there are more people in the US so we have to keep this in consideration.

Martin Levine, former Foreign Service Officer (1978-2009)

“-In Canada the police are public servants. They are unionized bureaucrats. We do not elect police chiefs as the Americans sometimes do.

-Canada has only one criminal code, the federal one, because provinces are not constitutionally allowed to enact their own criminal codes. Canadian police officers are there to enact the federal criminal code. America is different. There are state criminal codes that sometimes conflict with the federal one. The situation for American police can be awfully complicated and some states object to their police forces enforcing federal criminal laws.

-Canadian police do not have to face a heavily-armed population the way American ones do. Canadian police can afford to be less fearful and not as aggressive.

-Compared to the USA, Canada does not have much of a rebel tradition. There is a lot of respect for authority. Canadian police benefit from this.

-The USA seems to have fallen into a habit of seeing police as either courageous warriors or oppressors of a racist and oppressive social order. Canada is a social welfare state. These feelings aren’t so strong in Canada. Our military isn’t that big and powerful and doesn’t tend to pull the police along in their wake.

-In return for respect, police in Canada are expected to be a social service front line.

-The USA does not have a national police force that interacts much with everyday Americans. The FBI does not provide local policing services. The RCMP does. They don’t have the FBI’s mystique. The RCMP’s deficiencies are very visible. Their mistakes are a part of Canadian public debate.”

Let’s look at the numbers.

Number of police services: Canada has less than 235 police services. In the U.S., a country with 10 times our population, there are almost 18,000. Many are small services with limited capacity, training opportunities and expertise.

Training: In Canada, about $13 billion is spent on policing — $1 billion of that is spent on ongoing training. Many U.S. chiefs state training has been cut back severely in many jurisdictions these past seven years. In some cases, it has been virtually eliminated.

Even some americans realize the difference.

Joe Johnson has been a tactical instructor for 21 years. Seven years ago, Johnson was asked to change his training course to put more emphasis on critical thinking and abstract ideas like community values. At first, he says, he resisted because he was worried it would make his recruits soft. But now he’s fully on-board.

Luann Pannell, the Los Angeles Police Department’s training director, is from Red Deer, Alta., and says she brings a Canadian perspective to the LAPD. (Kim Brunhuber)

“Trust me, the training is better,” Johnson said. “It is constitutional policing at its highest level. So the fact that it comes from Canada? We’ll take it!”

But does the violence cross borders?

Bit by bit, agreement by agreement, Canada is giving away more and more in the name of trade. To Conservatives, none of this is a threat to our sovereignty, as if the very act of stating so makes it so.

But let us consider this fantasy scenario: RCMP officers stopping American citizens on the Buffalo side of their border. Picture the horrified expression of those resilient New Yorkers as they are forced to slow down on their Interstate highway so as to be greeted by a smiling RCMP officer who is to inspect their property, ask questions about where they live, where they’ve come from, and the like — all part of a so called “pre-clearing” program.

Of course, this scene would never occur. The United States protects, obsessively, their sovereignty. But in Canada, armed American police officers will now be able to stop Canadians, in Canada, inspecting, checking and asking questions.

It is within this setting that approximately 500 individuals are shot and killed by American law enforcement personnel each year. It is speculated that this number is far higher due to a lack of accurate government reporting in the States. The Washington Post estimates that police agencies in the U.S. fatally shot 987 individuals in 2015. With a U.S. population of 320 million people, this number reflects a frequency rate of roughly three fatal police shootings per 1 million individuals.

In stark contrast, there have been 376 fatal police shootings in Canada during the 25-year period from Jan. 1, 1990, to Dec. 31, 2014. This number equates to approximately 15 fatal police shootings per year, reflecting a rate of one fatal shooting per 1.85 million individuals. The per-capita number of deaths by legal intervention within the U.S. is roughly six times greater than those in neighbouring Canada.

The national homicide rate also indicates the differing trends between the two countries regarding forms of extreme violence. For example, 516 homicides occurred in Canada during 2014. This reflects a rate of 1.45 homicides per 100,000 population. In stark contrast, the U.S. in 2014 recorded 14,249 homicides reflecting a rate of 4.5 per 100,000 population.

In Canada, high public expectations have also ensured that officers are held accountable for their actions. Canadian police agencies have responded to this demand by developing organizational policies and procedures surrounding the use of force, (Oh boy… SO they say) which are reinforced by internal processes and mechanisms. Several external factors, including evolving case law and designated police oversight agencies provide checks within the various provinces to ensure police transparency and accountability.

What is your thoughts about the differences or not at all between the Canadian and US police department?

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